Emergent Leadership, Sex and Gender Role
Whoever gets to emerge as a leader may be the one with the right mix of individual traits that the rest of the group may find easy to identify with. Then, does it really matter whether a man or a woman becomes leader? Some observers, leaning on stereotypical data and research, tend to believe that leadership emergene favors men more than women.
We are living in a global market economy where more and more organizations are embracing group projects or teamwork. Team leadership becomes an important buzzword at the same time. There is a large increase of diverse people working shoulder to shoulder on various tasks and goals. Men and women group themselves or are grouped by the organizations in order to reach higher quotas and achieve more productivity. It’s important to note that the effects of sex, gender role on self- and group perceptions of leader emergence fall under the large umbrella of interactive relation. After all, Pierce and Newstrom state in Leaders and the Leadership Process that “leadership can be seen as a working relationship among members of a group.” Commenting on Stogdill’s observation, these two authors suggest that “leadership is a relationship that is associated with the attainment of group objectives, implying that it is an activity, consisting of movement and getting work accomplished.”
There is no doubt that the leadership role is coveted by many people in the group. Therefore, becoming a leader will require more than the application of traits as suggested by the Great Man Theory. Being entrusted with the responsibility of leading the group to performance and satisfaction will require the use of strategies and keen observation. A considerable amount of research has been devoted to understanding the factors associated with individuals emerging as leaders in groups. Two of these characteristics are biological sex and gender role (Goktepe & Schneier, 1989). Past research has consistently shown that men more often emerge as leaders than women (Carbonnell, 1984; Megargee, 1969). Kent, R. L. and Moss, S.E. provides an overview of the literature in Effects of sex and gender role on leaders emergence published by the Academy of Management Journal. They said that this phenomenon has been attributed to internal (Teborg, 1977; Wentworth & Anderson, 1984; White, DeSanctis, & Crino, 1981) and external (Ahrons, 2976; Bowman, Worthy, & Greyson, 1965; Goodale & Hall, 1976; Powell, 1993; Weisman, Morlock, Sack, & Levine, 1976) barriers limiting women’s leader emergence. We must rejoice in the fact that some recent evidence is suggesting that there have been shifts in societal acceptance of women as leaders (Sutton & Moore, 1985) and that some of the barriers that prevented women from emerging as leaders may be coming down (Brenner, Tomkiewicz, & Schein, 1989; Chusmir & Koberg, 1991).
In this paper, we will try to show the relationship between leader emergence and the characteristics of sex and gender role. It’s hoped that we will meet our objectives by clarifying and answering these three questions: (1) Are men more likely to emerge as
leaders in group situations, (2) what are the effects of gender role on leader emergence, and (3) is sex and gender role a good predictor of leader emergence?
It’s appropriate to agree on the definition of leader emergence. “Leader emergence, as contrasted with leadership, is a product of social interaction and results in a consensus among group members that one (or more) individual(s) could serve the group more usefully in attaining group goals than the other members” (Bass, 1981:13). Most of the research investigating emergent leadership has been directed by the trait approach, which assumes that leaders are endowed with certain characteristics that predispose them to be effective in a wide range of situations. Despite the intuitive appeal of the trait approach, strong and consistent empirical support has been lacking. Dobbins, G.H., Long, W.S. & Dedrick, E.J’s article, “The Role of Self-monitoring and Gender on Leader Emergence: A Laboratory and Field Study” is reviewed by Tayna Cheer Clemons. There is a suggestion that leader abilities, aptitudes, interests and personality characteristics typically account for less than 10 percent of the variance in leader emergence. Based on these results, many researchers conclude that a leadership trait or constellation of traits does not exist (e.g., Jenkins, 1947).
If leadership traits are not sufficient in predicting the rise to leadership, Lord, De Vader, and Alliger (1986) conducted a meta-analysis and concluded that previous reviews were far too pessimistic. They suggest that some variance in leader emergence can be predicted by the dominance, intelligence, and masculinity-femininity of the leader. Further, Kenny and Zaccaro (1983) proposed that persons who are consistently cast into leadership positions possess the ability to perceive and predict variations in group situations and pattern their own behavior accordingly. Kenny and Zaccaro’s description of leadership is very similar to the social psychological construct of self-monitoring. Some researchers are saying that females are good at studying social cues. Self-monitoring refers to the ability and willingness to read verbal and non-verbal social cues and alter one’s behaviors (Snyder, 1979). High self-monitors (HSMs) are adept both at reading social cues and at regulating their self-presentation to fit a particular situation. HSMs are typically good actors and are able to display unfelt emotions. They place a premium on impression management and adopt what they see as a pragmatic interpersonal orientation. They rely more on situational factors to determine behavioral appropriateness and less upon their inner feelings, attitudes, and dispositions. They communicate better than low self-monitors. HSMs can spend time more time and energy reviewing background information so that they accurately understand their audience (Elliot, 1979). It is fair to say that self-monitoring has both genetic and environmental precursors though nobody is clear about its origins. HSMs, in contrast to LSMs, are attentive to social comparison information, concerned about the appropriateness of social behavior, relatively adept at acting, able to control behavior and optimize self-presentations (Gangestad & Snyder, 1985). HSMs tend to accurately read the settings and feelings of group members and subsequently exhibit behaviors that match group members’ expectations. As a result, they tend to emerge as leaders more frequently than will LSMs.
It’s worth pondering, for a moment, the effects of sex and gender on leadership emergence. How do women fare with the self-monitoring description? A review of the literature will help us understand what women have had to put up with. Garland and Beard (1979) who tested the prediction found that self-monitoring predicted leader emergence only for women. However, there may be some problems with this testing. The relationship between self-monitoring and emergence can be attenuated because self-monitoring cannot predict emergence when all groups are either high or low. When it comes to accounting for gender effects, a lot of research finds that men emerge as leaders much more frequently than do women. Margargee (1969) examined the effects of dominance of leader emergence and found that men emerged more frequently than women irrespective of dominance levels. The same way, Nyquist and Spence (1986) found that 90 percent of high dominant women, and only 25 percent of high dominant women emerged as leaders over low dominant men. And Wentworth and Anderson (1984) found that men emerged as leaders in 86 percent of mixed-sex groups. Other studies by the same researchers and Fleischer and Chertkoff suggest that women may have been slightly more likely to emerge as leaders in the 1980s than in the 1960s, but their chances of doing so were best when they were perceived as experts.
The major study conducted by Megargee (1969) can shed some more light on the effects of sex and gender on the emergence of leadership within a group. She initially intended the study to be gender-neutral. The subjects rated high on dominance, as measured by the dominance scale on the California Personality Inventory and working in same-sex dyads emerged as leaders 69 percent of the time. In mixed-sex dyads with high-dominance men and low-dominance women, the men emerged as leaders 88 percent of the time. However, in mixed-sex dyads with high-dominance women and low-dominance men, the women emerged as leaders only 25 percent of the time. Anticipating that shifts in societal gender-role expectations would affect the frequency of women’s leader emergence, researchers such as Nyquist and Spence have tried to replicate Megargee’s original study. They also found similar results despite the fact they set up their study to be a more gender-neutral one.
In almost all of the studies conducted by the various researchers, gender-role effects were an important factor. Fagenson (1990) is suggesting that because of traditional gender stereotypes, it appears that the possession of feminine characteristics is detrimental to leader emergence while the possession of masculine ones is beneficial. These days, with so many changes in the workplace, the roles of the sexes have been blurred. The recent women’s liberation movement of the past decades, the mass entrance of women in the work force, the increasing number of female managers (Powell, Posner, & Schmidt, 1984), and the societal shifts in gender-role perceptions have all contributed to these changes. It would be interesting to find out whether because of all these changes women today possess more masculine characteristics than they have at any time in the past. Furthermore, many studies have shown masculinity to be associated with leader emergence. Pierce and Newstrom report “in a study by Goktepe and Schneier (1989), college students performed gender-neutral tasks over the course of a semester. The
effects of both sex and gender role on the leader emergence were assessed. The results indicated that sex had no effect on leader emergence, but gender role did. Specifically, regardless of sex, masculine subjects were more likely to emerge as leaders than feminine, androgynous, and undifferentiated individuals.” In view of these findings, Pierce and Newstrom developed four hypotheses: (1)Men will more often emerge as leaders in group situations than women (2) Group members high in masculinity will emerge as leaders more frequently than those low in masculinity (3) Gender identity will account for more variance in leader emergence than biological sex (4) Individuals classified as masculine or androgynous will emerge as leaders more frequently than individuals classified as feminine or undifferentiated. The study, however, did not indicate whether having feminine characteristics would strengthen or weaken the prospects of leader emergence for those high on masculinity.
It is important to note a few results of this study. The above-named researchers found out that androgynous or hermaphroditic individuals have the same chances of emerging as leader as masculine individuals. The implications of the study can be summarized as follows. First, consistent with previous studies and in support of Hypothesis 2, it is clear that masculinity is still an important predictor of leader emergence. Second, contrary to previous findings, the emergence of androgynous leaders suggests that the possession of feminine characteristics does not decrease an individual’s chances of emerging as a leader as long as the individual also possesses masculine characteristics. Third, as an extension, if women in other contexts are more likely to be androgynous than masculine, as they were in the study, they may have better chances of rising to leadership status. There will have to be verification of androgyny as being related to leader emergence in other settings in future studies. Nothing is conclusive.
Let’s take a look at Eagly’s gender-role theory. It suggests that men are more likely to emerge as leaders in task-oriented groups, but women are more likely to emerge as leaders in socially oriented groups. Conventional wisdom or common sense suggests that systematic connections exist between gender, interaction, and leadership. We all know that group of women are believed to organize social life differently than men. In other words, women are expected to enact less instrumental behavior than men and to create hierarchical structures of power and prestige less often. In mixed-gender settings, women are expected to hold a disproportionate share of low-status positions on power and prestige hierarchies,” observed Walker, Henry A, Llardi, Barbara C, McMahon, Anne M, Fennell, Mary L. in Gender, Interactions, and leadership.
Gender is a status characteristic in U.S. society, and females possess the low state of characteristic (Berger, Rosentholtz, and Zelditch 1980). Let’s look at some of the additional theories behind gender, interaction and leadership.
Walker et al. said “the world of experience appears to verify these presuppositions. Males exercise more influence than females in face-to-face groups such
as families (Strodtbeck 1951; Zelditch 1955) and juries (Strodtbeck, James and Hawkins 1957; Strodtbeck and Mann 1956). They are also more likely than females to become members of prestigious occupations, to hold positions of authority at work (Wolf and Fligstein 1979) and to achieve powerful positions in the corporate and civic worlds (Kanter 1977; Kathlene 1994). After considering the data on gender, interaction and leadership, one may not wonder why there has never been a woman president in the history of the United States.
Based on the gender-role socialization theory, girls and boys are taught to enact gender-typed behaviors; the tendencies, once established, are stable and relatively inflexible. Gender-role socialization (GRS) arguments build on functional theories of role differentiation to explain gender differences in behavior (Bales 1953; Durkheim 1964; Zeditch 1955. GRS arguments predict uniform gender differences. They presume that females enact more expressive than instrumental behaviors, whereas males perform a higher proportion of instrumental acts. What to remember is the following: Gender-role socialization (GRS1) suggests that all-female groups are less likely than all-male groups to develop hierarchical patterns of power and prestige. GRS2 suggests that females are less likely than males to hold top positions on power and prestige structures in mixed-gender groups. Furthermore, we can take a look at the legitimacy theories. LEG 1 stipulate that all-femaile groups are as likely as all-male groups to develop hierarchical patterns of power and prestige. LEG 2 states that females are as likely as males to hold top positions on power and prestige structures in mixed-gender groups. Walker et. al say that the legitimacy arguments presume that some combinations of actors (or identities), roles, and behaviors are more legitimate than others; that is, they are constitutively prescribed or normatively defined as more appropriate. These theories imply that actors whose identities possess equal legitimacy enact similar behavior. Members of homogeneous groups possess equally legitimate identities-in-action.
A more profound review of the existing literature seems to shed more light on the effects of gender role, leader emergence and whether sex and gender role is a good predictor of emergent leadership. Without even taking the natural occurrence of birth order, many females have had lots of experience being leaders. Many of these women are used to holding leadership positions. Ronk (1993) in her study of gender gaps in management failed to find differences between male and female leadership styles based on personality traits and their relationship to leadership quality. The same study also reports that there is no difference between male and female managerial styles and values that predict behavior in men and women. Ronk was not the only researcher who came up with this conclusion. Phillip A. et al. provide the study conducted by Campbell et al. (1993) which concludes that gender has no substantive impact on leadership style. Furthermore, Maccoby and Schein are said to present a large body of literature on sex-role stereotyping which might predispose an individual to expect a particular type of leadership approach from a female leader. Butterfield and Powell (1981) argued that sex-role stereotypes, not sex, are predictors of leadership styles and that leader sex effects appear to be decreasing.. Kent and Moss (1994) also concluded that although women were slightly more likely than men to be perceived as leaders, gender role had a stronger effect than sex on emergent leadership.
In view of all these research results, it remains clear that women have a better chance of being themselves if they want to rise to leadership positions. Rojahn and Willemsen (1994) found only limited support for the gender-role hypothesis that women are more favorably accepted when they act like women and not like men.
Pierce, J.L. and Newstrom, J.W. Leaders and the Leadership Process. (New York: McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2003)
Powell, G.N. (1988). Women & Men in management. Newbury Park, CA: Sage
Stogdill, R. M. Handbook of leadership: A survey of the literature (New York: Free Press, 1974)
Ahrons, C.R. 1976. Counselor’s perceptions of career images of women. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 8: 197-207.
Berger, J., Rosenholtz, S. J., and Zelditch, M. 1980. “Status organizing Processes.” Annual Review of Sociology 6:479-508. Bischoping, K. 1993. .
Bowman, G.W., Worthy, N.B., & Greyson, S.A. 1965. Problems in review: Are women executives people? Harvard Business Review, 43 (4): 52-67.
Carbonell, J.L. 1984. Sex Roles and leadership revisited. Journal of Applied Psychology, 69: 44-49.
Elliot, G.C. 1979. Some effects of deception and level of self-monitoring on planning and reacting to self presentation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37: 1282-1292.
Fagenson, E. A.,. 1990. Perceived masculine and feminine attributes examined as a function of individuals’ sex and level in the organizational power hierarchy: A test of four theoretical perspectives. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75: 204-211.
Jenkins, W.O. 1947. A Review of leadership studies with particular reference to military problems. Psychological Bulletin, 44: 54-79
Goktepe, J.R., B Schneier, C.E. 1989. Role of sex, gender roles, and attraction in predicting emergent leaders. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74: 165-167.
Goodale, J.G., & Hall, D.T. 1976. Inheriting a career: The influence of sex, values, and parents. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 8: 19-30.
Kent, R. L., & Moss, S.E. 1990. Self-monitoring as a predictor of leader emergence. Psychological Reports, 66: 875-881
Kenny, D., & Zaccaro, S. 1983. An estimate of variance due to traits in leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 68: 678-685.
Megargee, E.I. 1969. Influence of sex roles on the manifestation of leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 53: 377-382.
Snyder, M. 1979. Self-monitoring processes. In L. Berkowitz (ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, 12:86-128. New York: Academic Press.
Nyquist, L.V., & Spence, J.T. 1986. Effects of dispositional dominance and sex role expectations on leadership behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50:87-93.
Snyder, M. 1986. Public appearances/private realities. New York: Freeman and Company.
Ronk, LA. (1993), “Gender gaps with management”, Nursing Management, May, pp. 65-7.
Strodtbeck, F.L., 1951. “Husband-Wife Interaction over Revealed Differences.” American Sociological Review 16: 468-73.
Terborg, J.R. 1977. Women in Management: A research review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 62:647-664.
Wentworth, D. K., & Anderson, L.R. 1984. Emergent Leadership as a function of sex and task type. Sex Roles, 11: 513-523.
Walker, H. A., Llardi, B.C., McMahon, Anne M., Fennell, M.L. Gender, Interactions, and leadership. Social Psychology Quarterly. Washington: Sep 1996. Vol. 59, Iss. 3; pg. 255, 18 pgs.
White, M.C., DeSanctis, G., & Crino, M.D. 1981. Achievement, self-confidence, personality traits, and leadership ability: A review of literature on sex differences. Psychological Reports, 48: 547-569.